Helping the body regrow nerves: New strategy for restoring nerve function

by Miles O'brien
Helping the body regrow nerves: New strategy for restoring nerve function
People with paralysis and other physical disabilities are walking again due to the development of a robotic exoskeleton. It is the creation of Homayoon Kazerooni, a robotics engineering professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and his team of researchers. Their work focuses on the control of human-machine systems specific to lower human extremities. Credit: NBC Learn, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and National Science Foundation

Combat, cancer and accidents—all can cause devastating nerve injuries. Sometimes, the body heals on its own.

"Your , the ones in the arms and the face, have an inherent ability to regenerate, but only under ideal circumstances," says University of Florida biomedical engineer Christine Schmidt.

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Schmidt and her team are working to restore when injuries are more complicated. Surgeons can sometimes move a nerve from one part of a patient's body to another. Schmidt has developed a method that grafts cadaver tissue onto the damaged area to act as a for nerves to re-grow themselves.

"This medical application has been made possible by developing new methods and by understanding how cells interact with their surroundings," notes Friedrich Srienc, director of the Biotechnology, Biochemical and Biomass Engineering program in NSF's Directorate for Engineering.

Schmidt and her team are also looking at other approaches to directly stimulate nerve growth using as building blocks the natural sugar molecules found in the body. That would eliminate the need to transplant tissue. While the ultimate goal in nerve regeneration is reversing paralysis, Schmidt says intermediate successes, such as improving lung or bladder function, can be invaluable to patients and their families.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New tissue engineering breakthrough encourages nerve repair

Jul 08, 2013

A new combination of tissue engineering techniques could reduce the need for nerve grafts, according to new research by The Open University. Regeneration of nerves is challenging when the damaged area is extensive, and surgeons ...

Race to nerve regeneration: faster is better

Oct 03, 2011

A team of researchers led by Clifford Woolf and Chi Ma, at Children's Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School, Boston, has identified a way to accelerate the regeneration of injured peripheral nerves in mice such that ...

Recommended for you

Growing a blood vessel in a week

22 hours ago

The technology for creating new tissues from stem cells has taken a giant leap forward. Three tablespoons of blood are all that is needed to grow a brand new blood vessel in just seven days. This is shown ...

Testing time for stem cells

Oct 24, 2014

DefiniGEN is one of the first commercial opportunities to arise from Cambridge's expertise in stem cell research. Here, we look at some of the fundamental research that enables it to supply liver and pancreatic ...

Team finds key signaling pathway in cause of preeclampsia

Oct 23, 2014

A team of researchers led by a Wayne State University School of Medicine associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology has published findings that provide novel insight into the cause of preeclampsia, the leading cause ...

Rapid test to diagnose severe sepsis

Oct 23, 2014

A new test, developed by University of British Columbia researchers, could help physicians predict within an hour if a patient will develop severe sepsis so they can begin treatment immediately.

User comments